No other municipality fought amalgamation harder than East York, so when signs bearing its original corporate symbols were removed from outside the former borough's Civic Centre and were mysteriously "disposed of" by the works department early last month, locals were understandably miffed at yet more erosion of the community's identity. "You have no idea how shocked I was to see the signs gone and not to have been consulted about it," says Councillor Janet Davis.
An apologetic Linda Kelland, the city's manager of capital projects, facilities and real estate, calls the trashing of a piece of East York's 200-year history an "unfortunate oversight."
Kelland seems eager enough to make amends. "I'll certainly act as quickly as possible," she says, referring to a Davis motion passed by council last week to have the East York logo painted onto the city of Toronto signs that replaced the originals.
A second motion passed by council will require the city to notify the East York Foundation of any messing with historically significant property.
But all artifacts bearing the East York corporate symbol are already supposed to be handed over to the foundation for safekeeping.
The foundation was established in 1967 under provincial charter to protect East York property from being confiscated by the city of Toronto in the event of amalgamation, which was seriously discussed back then when Metro Toronto was being reorganized.
In fact, protection of East York's historical identity extends to the Civic Centre at 850 Coxwell and its grounds. The grounds were given to the Royal Canadian Legion in perpetuity as a war memorial site back in 1948 (the former borough's war memorial sits on the property), a little-known fact that helped block an attempt by Mel Lastman's regime to have the lands and building declared surplus and sold in 2002.
That move was stopped after a large public meeting was held to save the Civic Centre, where a motion was passed to set up a board made up of locals and political reps to govern the building's use.
Rather than acting on that request, the city offered the Civic Centre to the MFP computer leasing inquiry. As a result, all the corporate symbols of the former borough were put in storage.
During the municipal election, David Miller told me that he recognized the important role the East York Civic Centre played in the community, and said he would do everything he could to protect it. The city seemed keen to keep Miller's promise when the administrative committee turned down a proposal in May to lease the former council chamber to a rabbi so it could be used exclusively as a wedding chamber.
So how did the city drop the ball on the sign issue? Blame the confusion and poor interdepartmental communication caused by amalgamation. "I warned people that this sort of thing was going to happen," says Beaches-East York NDP MPP Michael Prue. "The works crews doing these jobs today just don't know the building's history or its importance to the community."